Earth Overshoot Day is Moving in the Wrong Direction

Earth Overshoot Day

We’ve been deducting from the bank of Mother Nature for too long, and now she’s calling in the loans. Earth Overshoot Day was July 29, 2021—the date that our demand for ecological resources outpaces what can regenerate in a single year.

If you’re concerned about how we’re treating the planet, read on. Earth Overshoot Day is a good reminder that even with the brief pandemic reprieve, we’re still consuming resources at an alarming rate.

What is Earth Overshoot Day and why does it move?

The Global Footprint Network calculates Earth Overshoot Day each year. They research the global ecological footprint, and determines which day we’ll use more ecological resources than can be replenished in a year. This year, that date was July 29. In 2020, it was August 22—the global lockdowns and quarantines reduced demand on natural resources, so it was almost a full month longer until that year’s “allotment” was used up.

The global ecological footprint is like supply and demand. Supply, obviously, is what the earth can regenerate in a year. Demand is how much of the earth’s resources we use in any given year. Demand has long outstripped supply, and it seems to be getting worse. This year, our global ecological footprint increased 6.6 percent. We’re using 74 percent more resources than the planet can replenish this year—and there’s nothing to suggest that the problem couldn’t get worse.

Since 1970, Earth Overshoot Day has been steadily trending downward. In 1970, Earth Overshoot Day was in late December. In 1980, it was in November; in 1990, it was in October. By 2000, it was in September. 20 years later, Earth Overshoot Day is happening in July—the earliest it’s ever been. It’s hard to ignore the increased demands we’re putting on the planet, especially when it’s in such an easy-to-grasp concept.

What’s worse? If every country lived like we do in the United States, Earth Overshoot Day would be in March.

Moving the date

Earth Overshoot Day has a #MoveTheDate campaign, which asks everyone on the planet to consider how we can start moving the date back toward December. This type of effort is obviously a gargantuan one: even a global pandemic couldn’t move it back an entire month.

On the other hand, the fact that we did move the date back last year is a good thing: it’s proof that it can be done. Granted, the goal is to save the planet without forcing everyone to become hermits for months at a time—COVID-19 has taken a very heavy mental, physical and emotional health toll. (Plus, no one wants to see a “nature is healing” meme ever again.) Clearly, however, limiting how much people drive and fly makes a big difference to the earth. Now the goal is to find ways to do that, like renewable energy, that will allow us to enjoy modern conveniences with a lower ecological footprint.

Yes, that’s a tall order—but it’s not impossible. Here are some of the suggestions from the Global Footprint Network.

  • Try a plant-based diet. Meat consumption might be delicious, but it takes a huge toll on the environment. Consider incorporating more plant-based meals into your diet. You don’t have to give up the ribeye and the sushi completely—but if we cut meat consumption by 50 percent worldwide, it would move the date back 17 days.
  • Look for clean ways to commute. Did you know that 57 percent of our ecological footprint comes from carbon? If you can walk, bike, take public transit or drive an electric vehicle to work, you can make a big impact.
  • Traveling with the planet in mind. When you travel, do your best to patronize establishments that have an ecological focus—there are more of them than you might think—and try to use public transit or electric vehicles whenever possible.
  • Cut down on fast fashion. You might be a clotheshorse, but avoiding fast fashion—cheaply-manufactured clothing from low-wage factories—can help cut down on waste. Invest in quality pieces from brands with a good planetary ethos, and consider buying secondhand whenever possible.
  • Talk to your leaders. Most importantly, talk to your leaders at the local, state and federal level. Show your support for sustainable, eco-friendly practices and infrastructure. When you get your friends and family to join you, your voice can be powerful.

In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have an Earth Overshoot Day. That said, reality is hardly ever perfect, and we as humans certainly aren’t. The best we can do as a collective is to push the date further and further back, and be mindful of the resources we’re using.

Abhishek Chauhan

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